THE OBJECT AS EVENT SEMINAR I: VISION AND ITS INSTRUMENTS IN THE EARLY MODERN PERIOD
In recent years the topic of vision and visuality has attracted a great deal of interest among historians of art as well as sciences. Traditionally, perspective, which governed representation and its laws, had been the most frequently addressed theme both for being a paradigmatic invention of the Renaissance and the most obvious convergence point between artists, architects and mathematicians. More recently, due to the intense scrutiny paid to images, the interest in the exchanges between the arts and sciences has shifted to the processes of image making and reception, to the physiology of the body and the mechanics of instruments. Most work has tended to focus on the post-Scientific Revolution period. However, the economy of the eye has not had a linear development that climaxed in the modern world and the debates on the nature of sight and of seeing, on sight as vehicle as well as limit to knowledge and on the eye itself as ultimate instrument of nature (often challenged and hence unstable in its privileged position as primary access to truth) in the early modern period has been both complex and complicated. The interdisciplinary seminar then seeks to recover this discourse about sight and investigate moments of discovery and crisis, of insight and mutual illumination that the arts and the sciences shared in their perpetual effort to understand nature through the eye. In this context the tools that extended or modified sight, enhanced and transformed it and that turned sight into an event are particularly relevant to the questions that will be addressed. It is the ambition of this seminar to explore the full range of early modern conceptions of vision in which mal'occhio, spiritual visions and phantasms as well as the artist's brush or the architect's compass were seen to provide equal knowledge to, and in certain cases even better than newly developed scientific instruments and practices.
THE OBJECT AS EVENT SEMINAR II: PORTABLE ARCHAEOLOGY AND THE POETICS OF INFLUENCE: CROATIA AND THE MEDITERRANEAN
Two-stage seminar (October 2008 and January 2009) in Croatia and KHI, Florence which looks to archaeological sites as opportunities to reflect upon how "mobile" (or portable) apparently "immobile" sites might be. This project explores the problem of how sites "travel" and become influential, that is, how and in what form information about ancient monuments circulated and how the materiality of this distribution or dissemination (by text, drawing, crafted objects, travelogue, oral descriptions, painting, print, manuscript illumination, fabrics, that is, both in "high" and "low" art forms) affected how they were received. It is the ambition of this project to reveal an economy of things and images that circulated and allowed sites that were "off centre" to have a significant impact. The seminar focuses on the sites along the Croatian coast (Split, Pula, Dubrovnik, Sebenico etc)--with their rich history going back to the Romans and across the medieval and early modern periods, drawn as they were into the tumultuous events that marked the history of the Mediterranean in the early modern period (Byzantine, Venetian, Ottoman etc.). The choice of Croatia as the centre of gravity and starting point of this project, that is, a fundamentally coastal region, meant that the participants were asked to look both East and West to the shores (or littoral) of the Mediterranean with which it was tied by the sea into a tight network of travel, war, trade and art collecting. Portability and hybridity go hand in hand, and in tracing transformation the seminar allowed the participants to tease out both expected patterns and unexpected serendipitous moments when exchange occurred. By focusing on translation and its instruments the seminar and the volume of essays arising from it then seek to expand the traditional concept of influence by thrusting mobility and the "hardware" of cultural transmission, its mechanisms, rather than its effects, into the foreground. Using the Braudelian concept of the Mediterranean the seminar applies it to a specific site and a specific condition of “coastal exchanges”, concentrating on its materiality and on the arts. Although Croatia is the core theme of the seminar, the topics expand outwards from this center and embrace larger issues and questions that involve the Mediterranean world and its networks as a whole.
THE OBJECT AS EVENT SEMINAR III: URBAN ARTEFACTS: TRIUMPHAL ARCHES AND THE PARAGONE BETWEEN THE ARTS
Seminar Rome, Hertziana/Max Planck Institute (November 2009) and Cortona (May 2010). Like previous seminars, this seminar dedicated to triumphal arches also focuses on moments when architecture becomes an “object” and/or “portable” (a defining feature of objects), when it becomes small, when it is translated into other media and objects and becomes used as an object in this way. Triumphal arches can be construed to be not only urban objects, but also a “petrification” of booty, of honorific objects as well as of events (entries), hybrid things neither architecture, nor sculpture, nor painting though participating in all three. Blending pagan and Christian symbolism of victory, entry, and adventus, the arch type also carries these layers of significance from the large to the small scale, to portals and gates, baldachins and balconies. This project then seeks to explore the difficult overlap between media and scales and tease out what it tells us about the idea of the triumph as a cultural category that crosses religions and time, but also what it tells us about artistic media and their uses, slippages from one to the other and shifts of meaning when this happens. Equally important is the issue of scale and shifts in scale (and hence meaning) that various materials and formats engender. The topics gathered under the umbrella of this seminar address the theme across a wide temporal spectrum, from antiquity to early modern and modern times, from Constantine the Great to Mussolini, attending to shifts and continuities, loss and recovery.
THE OBJECT AS EVENT SEMINAR IV: ORNAMENT AS PORTABLE CULTURE: BETWEEN GLOBALISM AND LOCALISM
April 12-14, 2012, Harvard University
In collaboration with Gülru Necipoğlu. (co-sponsored by the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard and Harvard University)